Military Aviation

Northrop Grumman Says Australia’s B-21 Raider Procurement maybe “on the table,” but not now

According to Australia’s just-released Defense Strategic Review the country’s defense ministry “has undertaken detailed discussions in Australia and the United States in relation to the B-21 Raider as a potential capability option for Australia.”

According to Australia’s just-released Defense Strategic Review the country’s defense ministry “has undertaken detailed discussions in Australia and the United States in relation to the B-21 Raider as a potential capability option for Australia.”

Despite this recent revelation and although the country decided against it, Northrop Grumman said that buying B-21 bombers from the US may still be “on the table.”

The report said that “In light of our strategic circumstances and the approach to defense strategy and capability development outlined in this review, we do not consider the B-21 to be a suitable option for consideration for acquisition.”

However, as reported by Air & Space Forces Magazine, Northrop Grumman chief executive officer and president Kathy Warden said the door may still be open to such an arrangement.

On Apr. 27, 2023 Warded said that given the B-21 developmental status “It would be premature for us to be working with another government.”
She added: “I think it’s important that there were discussions—ongoing ones,” about a B-21 sale or collaboration, noting that this would have surprised her a few years ago.

Warden said that given “where the B-21 is today, I think it appropriate that they did not count on it in their Defense Strategic Review.”

In a statement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III did not address the B-21 decision in the strategic review, specifically, but he hailed “Australia’s commitment to being at the forefront of incorporating new capabilities” for its military.

The B-21 Raider was unveiled to the public at a ceremony on Dec. 2, 2022 in Palmdale, Calif.

Discussions and ties between Australia and the U.S. have ramped up over the past few years. In particular, the AUKUS agreement—which includes the United Kingdom—began with the goal of sharing nuclear-powered submarine technology but has expanded to other areas as well.

“It is the latest example of the pivotal role Australia plays in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific, including through participation in AUKUS and the Quad,” Austin said, noting that Australia is also planning to release its first ever National Defense Strategy in 2024.

While Warden addressed Australia’s interest in the B-21, she offered no new details on the aircraft’s progress, only saying it is expected to fly “this year,” and that the company expects the first low-rate initial production contract award by the end of the year.

At the B-21’s rollout in December 2022, US Air Force (USAF) and program officials hinted that they expected the bomber’s first flight to take place in the middle of 2023, after several months of outside engine runs and taxi tests.

But an USAF spokeswoman said the service has not officially pegged “mid year” as the target date.

“We’ve been saying ‘in 2023,’” the spokeswoman said.

The first flight of the B-2 bomber followed its rollout by nine months, and USAF officials have said privately they expected the B-21 to beat that.

The B-21 Raider, while state-of-the-art in the 2020s, is designed to be upgraded throughout its life as well to maintain its relevance.

The B-21 is a long-range, highly survivable stealth bomber capable of delivering a mix of conventional and nuclear munitions. The aircraft will play a major role supporting national security objectives and assuring US allies and partners across the globe.

The B-21 is the first new bomber to be introduced since the end of the Cold War. The aircraft is designed with updated stealth qualities and mission flexibility that senior leaders in the Air Force and across the Department of Defense say are necessary to achieve the US goal of achieving integrated deterrence, and if necessary, capabilities required to successfully respond to aggression anywhere in the world at any time.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

The B-21 Raider was unveiled to the public at a ceremony on Dec. 2, 2022 in Palmdale, Calif. 
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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